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Illinois Stepping up TBED, Broadband Efforts with Flurry of New Legislation

July 29, 2009

Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into law a six-year, $31 billion Jobs Now plan and smaller capital bill supporting science and technology research and commercialization and broadband deployment. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will administer several of the grants.

Funding for the Jobs Now plan is provided by a combination of state debt and federal and local matching funds. The bill allows the state to access more than $3.7 billion in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. Taxpayers, however, will face several fee increases to pay for the 20-year bonds issued to provide funding for the state's $13 billion share of the six-year capital plan.

The bill allocates $50 million to DCEO to support broadband deployment in order to expand and strengthen existing broadband network infrastructure, health technology, telemedicine, distance learning, and public safety. Another $15 million is appropriated from the Build Illinois Bond Fund to provide grants, loans, and other investments to emerging technology enterprises to support and encourage commercialization of tech-based products and services, tech transfer projects involving the promotion of new or innovative technologies, and R&D projects.

Gov. Quinn also signed HB 312, referred to as the mini-capital bill, making appropriations for several projects that were included in his budget proposal (see the March 25, 2009 issue of the Digest). New appropriations include:

  • $60 million to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for design and construction of a Petascale Computing Facility;
  • $17 million to Fermi National Accelerator Lab for the Illinois Accelerator Research Center; and,
  • $13 million to Argonne National Laboratory for the Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility.

The governor signed several appropriation bills for FY10 operational costs, including SB 1216, which appropriates $8.2 million in general revenue funds for DCEO operations. Another $18.5 million is allocated for DCEO operational expenses, awards, grants, and permanent improvements. To help address the budget deficit, Gov. Quinn signed SB 1433, which authorizes the transfer of various funds to the general revenue fund. This includes $13.4 million from the Renewable Energy Resources Trust Fund, $2 million from the Workforce, Technology & Economic Development Fund, $2.2 million from DCEO Energy Projects Fund, and $1 million from DCEO Projects Fund.

Several other bills of interest to the tech-based economic development community have been approved by the legislature and are awaiting the governor's action. They include:

  • HB 852 - creates the 21st Century Workforce Development Fund Act to promote the state's interest in the creation of a diverse and skilled workforce. The fund would support strategies that promote workforce development activities to prepare individuals for jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, among others.
  • SB 1570 - creates the School Wind and Solar Generation Program to fund wind and solar generation projects for school districts and community colleges.
  • SB 1906 - Amends the Illinois Finance Authority Act to authorize bonds for clean coal projects, coal projects, and renewable energy projects. The bill also increases and reallocates the authorization for these projects.
  • SB 2150 - Creates the Illinois Power Agency Renewable Energy Resources Fund as a special fund in the state treasury for use by the Illinois Power Agency to procure renewable energy resources.

Currently pending in the legislature, SB 1522 would set aside $25 million in grants and tax credits to help biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical-device startups commercialize new technologies. The Emerging Technologies Industries Act would set aside $10 million in state funds annually for matching grants to Illinois startups that obtain SBIR grants and create a $15 million tax credit program for state registered and qualified investors in early-stage life science companies, reports BioRegion News.

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